Social occasions unfortunately, are where more stress hits parents and children when picky eating is present.
The spotlight lands well and truly on the children who are not participating in the meals and parents often feel embarrassed, judged or just really worried for their child and how they are going to cope.
Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas or a milestone birthday, my advice would be the same.
Let’s look at 5 things that help everyone!
1. Big social occasions are NOT the place to teach a child to eat. If peanut butter sandwiches are the only menu item, then there is an infinitesimal chance that they will suddenly say “oh but today, that turkey looks great”.
2. If eating the main food is not going to happen then a) don’t expect it to b) manage other’s expectations so they are not thinking it will either and c) honour the child and don’t put them in the hot seat.
3. If it’s a celebration for everyone else, it should also be a celebration for our child too. If you’re really looking forward to the food, why shouldn’t they? If that is a different food to yours, then it is. I love eggplant but I know not everyone else does!
4. Give our child the best chance for enjoying the celebration. Explaining exactly what is going to happen and reassuring them that a) there will be a food they can eat b) no one is going to force them to eat anything they are uncomfortable about and c) that you have strategies in place to manage anxieties – can in itself reduce anxiety coming into the celebration.
5. If at all possible, involve our children in the food. If they eat rolls, it’s an easy addition to the menu. If it’s crackers, there is no reason not to have a cheese platter available. Plain pasta, add a serving plate with some for everyone to access. If it’s nuggets not turkey that ticks boxes, why not serve those alongside too?
Good experiences around food may not count for much in the grand scheme of things, but bad experiences can stick with us for years. Let’s work at making celebrations, celebrations for all.
I have some awesome ideas for Christmas coming very soon …